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Florida's iconic orange crop to be smaller than anticipated, greening to blame

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BARTOW, Florida — The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a bleak estimate for the state's citrus industry, saying that the 2014-2015 Florida orange crop will yield 96.4 million boxes of fruit, down from the 104 million boxes produced last year.

The estimate released Tuesday represents a decline of 60 percent since the peak of citrus production at 244 million boxes in 1997-98.

Florida agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam says it shows just how severely citrus greening has devastated Florida's top fruit crop.

Greening is spread by a gnat-sized insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. Greening causes fruit to shrink and drop early and eventually kills the tree.

Putnam's agency has requested $18 million to support research and to remove and replant diseased trees.

Florida's citrus industry is worth $10.7 billion and supports 64,000 jobs.

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